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Persian Saffron: No-Skewer Kebab


 This past winter, I bought my very first heavy-duty grill along with all the gadgets and gizmos that every seasoned griller is equipped with. Ever since, I have sorted out my recipe cards of the grill-friendly dishes – a lot of kebob recipes among them – waiting patiently for the right time to roll up my sleeves and get grilling.

Memorial weekend is the best occasion in the US where many people grill their kabob. Yet, I couldn’t wait until Monday, I decided to cheer up my family with pre-memorial day surprise. Noosh-e j?n!


Prep time: 15 min.

Cooking time: 1 hr

Ready in: 1 hr 30 min

Level: Intermediate

Serves: 4-5


No-Skewer Kebab


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1 pound ground beef (used 88% lean)

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 ½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoon black pepper

2-3 medium wine tomatoes


Smearing sauce (optional)

2 tablespoons tomato paste

Juice from ½ lemon

A pinch of salt

1/3 cup warm water

2 tablespoon canola oil

2 cups Basmati Rice

2 tablespoons salt

2-3 tablespoons canola oil



1.Mix the ground beef and chopped onion really well. I use an electric food chopper to mince the onions to desired pieces. If using a hand-held grater, use the medium blade and dispose of the liquid before mixing with meat; otherwise, the kebobs will break off while cooking.

2. Add turmeric, salt and pepper to the mix, and massage the meat for 5 minutes. I usually mix everything in the same pan I will be cooking the kebobs. This way, the fat from the meat will cover the bottom of the pan and I don’t have to add extra oil for cooking. Smart, right?

3. Press the meat to the bottom of the pan and spread it evenly until it reaches 1/4” thickness. I usually end up dividing the mixture between two pans since I like the kebobs to be cooked thoroughly and least resemble stretched Hamburgers.

4. Using a wide-tip spatula, divide the meat into 2-2 ½” wide stripes and smooth the top as you go along. Make sure the stripes are not too narrow. When the heat is on, they will shrink considerably and will look like a deformed sausage roll. If the stripes are too wide, … well, they won’t look like kebobs anymore.

5. Place the pans over high heat with the lid covering them half way. If using leaner meat, add 2 tablespoons of oil for cooking. It soon starts to sizzle and the meat juice will run out. After 2-3 minutes, carefully flip the kebabs over. It is better to scrape off the foam from the meat. Reduce heat, cover and let cook until the juice is absorbed back.

6. Flip the kebobs over one more time. At this point, they should have browned to some extent and will be done in couple of more minutes. Remember to keep the heat low to avoid burning them.

7. Cut the tomatoes and arrange them over the kebabs. Leave them on for 10 minutes, checking on them and kebabs periodically. The juice of tomatoes keeps the kebabs moist and tasty. When cracks appear on the tomato skins, they are done.

8. If you like an extra kick to this dish, simply add the smearing sauce after removing the tomatoes. Combine tomato paste, juice from half a lemon, a hint of salt and some warm water in a bowl. Pour it over the kebabs and keep the heat low. After 1-2 minutes, flip the kebabs over, cover and let the sauce thicken to desired thickness.

9.  Meanwhile, wash 2 cups of Basmati rice under lukewarm water. Drain. Repeat rinse and drain (4-5 times) until the water runs clear. This step is very important to wash away the excess starch, otherwise, the rice will be too sticky after cooking. After proper amount of rinsing, fill the pot with cold water 1 ½ times more than the amount of rice. Add about 2 tablespoons of salt to water. Bring to boil. As soon as the rice appears to be floating on the surface of the boiling water, give it 1-2 minutes. Before the rice foam overflows the pot, pick it up and drain it into a colander. Rinse quickly with some cold water.

10. Add 2 tablespoons of canola oil to a non-stick pot over medium heat. Gradually add rice to the pot ( I had a potato laying around, so after peeling it, I laid potato slices at the bottom of the pot and added the rice). After returning all the rice to the pot, pour about ¼ cup water over rice. Cover and let it sweat, approximately 3-4 minutes.

11. When you notice excessive sweating on the lid and steam coming out of the pot, lower the heat and wrap the lid in a cloth or use 2 paper towel sheets to prevent the sweat from getting into the rice. It will be ready in 20-25 minutes.

Served over a bed of rice, the no-skewer kebab is a delicious dish made in no time and with minimum ingredients. It also pairs well with a wheat roll, some chopped lettuce, couple of slices of pickles and fresh tomatoes for a quick, on-the-go lunch.

Noosh-e j?n!